The Syrian Cliff
In June I posted a couple of blogs discussing our possible involvement in the Syrian War. President Obama was under pressure to supply the rebel forces with weapons. Although we decided to provide them arms, we have dragged our feet in doing so because of the difficulty in identifying which group(s) to support.
Now we are awaiting a decision by our government how to attack the Assad government for using chemical weapons in this civil war. The death toll of Syrian civilians is horrendous. Although the odds are stacked in favor of action now, I hope the president continues to defer military action.
Poison gas attacks have occurred in Syria but by whom is less clear. As in the run-up to the Iraq War, weapons of mass destruction are the trigger to initiate military action. Iraq didn’t have such weapons, but it was the excuse our government used to start the war. In the current situation either Assad or the rebels, or both, could have released the gas. Some question why Assad, who appears to be making a comeback, would do this and risk U. S. and Western European intervention. Where did the rebels acquire the gas? Captured from the government or provided by Iran? The shell casings found at the site of the current gas attack were primitive enough that they could have been manufactured by the rebels. As far as I’m aware, there has to date been no conclusive evidence that answers the question, and the government is unwilling or unable to provide the information they are relying on so that it can be vetted by congress or the public.
As we are reminded every day, victory by either Assad or the rebels will not benefit Syrians or the U. S. If Assad wins, sunnis and christians will suffer, Hezbollah’s stature in the area will be enhanced, Lebanon may descend into civil war, and Iran’s influence in the area will expand. If the rebels win, an Islamic, jihadis fundamentalist government supportive of Al Qaeda and hostile to the U. S. will probably take power with disastrous consequences to the minority populations in Syria and be a further destabilizing force in Iraq and Turkey.
From our standpoint a no-win for either side is probably the best outcome because we are hated and distrusted by both sides (as well as in much of the rest of the Middle East). Russian warships have entered the eastern Mediterranean and Iranian missiles can reach our warships in the Gulf. Some kind of an attack on Israel is likely. Although our nuclear weapons could destroy most of Iran in a couple of day, are we prepared for nuclear war under these circumstances? An attack on our ships and Israel could easily escalate into the kind of wars we’ve lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Going to war requires a decision by only one country; ending a war requires decisions by other countries, unless one country accepts the reality that it lost and withdraws.
If our government decides on military action in the present circumstances, I hope that congress is required to vote on this decision. Congress is supposed to represent we the people and I think our elected representatives should be required to vote yea or nay on such action.
Let’s not jump off this cliff.